People are storytellers. Some are good and some, not so much, but people tell stories all the time. A bar fight, a stupid boss, a date, a bad batch of popcorn; everything is a story and people get dramatic and emotional while telling them.
Children’s literature is full of the most brilliant writing techniques and ideas possible. It requires a special talent to hold a child’s attention. In my brief stint as an intern/writer/Harry Potter junkie at a magazine called Disney Adventures, I learnt that the only way to amaze and interest kids is to be amazed and interested yourself. I wrote about artificial satellites, flag designs and the Olympics, when I was convinced that kids only cared about Pokeman and Hannah Montanta (which they did) but a bunch of drawings, hand-made friendship bands and “I love buzz lightyear and want to go to NASA” emails reinforced my faith in humanity (this was before Justin Beiber). Children will read and love everything, if you know how to tell a story.
Speaking of stories there is something to be said about the ones who can take a complex, fantastic tale and make it simple and child-friendly. Uncle Pai. Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha taught me science, maths, geography and mythology in an 8-panel page. ACK is responsible for my having absorbed Krishna’s life to Anandamath and all of Indian literature’s classic stories: The gods had large biceps, maidens had large lustrous eyes and demons had long tongues: Ah the glory days. Clearly, Ananth Pai’s aim in starting this series has been fulfilled.
And then there is Dr Seuss commonly called The Genius (commonly called by me) where all of life’s lessons and philosophies came together in the most unfussy, simple way. Every time I write a sentence, I take a step back and wonder why it takes me so many words to explain one idea, when The Cat in the Hat, a Suess Favourite, has less than 250 words. Dr Seuss taught me brevity (although, I’m still learning, as is evidenced by the length of this sentence).
Then there were people who can just tell such an awesome story, it becomes actual formula in other books and art forms. I believe Earl Stanley Gardeners work (he wasn’t really writing for children but his books were a big part of my childhood) is the basis for all good courtroom dramas. I see traces of Perry Mason everywhere, from 1965’s Waqt through to 1993’s Damini and in 2004’s Aitraaz.
Stories, reading them, listening to them, watching them in film and television are important and they never leave us. As we get older, we begin to appreciate other good things about Art – Context, skill, craftsmanship, theme, subtext, metaphor, symbolism- but no matter how old you are, a good story gets you every time.